Chanin-istas: Ethical Elegance

Aug 21

I’m about to embark on a new stitching and wardrobe adventure. If blame is to be laid, it sits at the feet of Gale and Kay. Vicki must take her share, too. The blog posts, the Tweets, the Instagram photos: call me powerless against the pretty to be found on the Internet.

Last week I had lunch with Gale (we were plotting our Fiber College Savvy Storytelling class. Join us!), and she brought her stitching with her.

I woke up the next morning from a dream. An Alabama Chanin dream. Such dreams are not to be denied.

I made my way to a magical site.

book I ordered a book. I ordered a kit.

I stalked my mail.

I soothed my anticipation by learning how to love my thread and all about Natalie Chanin’s generous open source sharing of her work.

Last night when I at last could sit down with my book and kit, I devoured the book. Devoured. I nodded as I read, as I learned more about the beliefs that gird Alabama Chanin. It all makes so much sense.

And I think I had a conversion.

I sent this out into Twitter: “I want to make and wear every garment in this book”.

And Kay, ever the voice of reason, wrote back “Nothing stopping you.”

She’s right, of course.

So my plan, my next step in my elegant minimalist wardrobe project is to move, piece by piece, toward a more ethical wardrobe. I feel good buying dresses from Karina (check out my guest Dresstination post!), a cozy tunic sweatshirt from Cal Patch, a work bag from Moop. These makers, Alabama Chanin, too, have convinced me that I can dress ethically and elegantly.


I’ve never hand-sewn a garment before. I’m starting my conversion into a Chanin-ista with a shawl. I’m planning a short skirt next, and then I’m going to work my way up to a dress.

With my 52/52 project coming to a close, I’m declaring myself a new one: Project Ethical Elegance. I’d love to hear about your sources for clothing that fits both bills.

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Ten on Tuesday: Waiting Room Edition

Aug 05

Carole asked us to create a list of ten things to do in a waiting room. Here’s the thing: sometimes it’s no big deal, hanging out in a waiting room. Sometimes, though, it is a really big, nerve wracking deal.

1. Read. I always have a book on me, even if it’s on my phone. If I anticipate being anxious in the waiting room, I bring a super engrossing book.Dune

2. Knit. Duh.

3. Crochet. This is easier for me to pick up and put down, and if I’m working on something with motifs, it’s extra-portable, too.

4. Write letters. I’m a fan of hand written letters. All too often I fill my days with other activities, though, and miss the opportunity to write a letter, fold it, put it in an envelope and make a pal smile when she opens her mailbox. Writing a letter takes my mind off worries, and it makes me happier.

5. Work. During the semester, I’ll often bring papers to grade or a novel I’m editing for a client.

6. Sketch. I haven’t done this yet, but waiting rooms offer a perfect opportunity to practice sketching faces. I’m taking a few online sketching classes, and I’m inspired to use waiting room time this way.

7. Mind map. Even though I have apps for that, I prefer good old pen and paper (I’m noticing a theme). Whatever problem in my creative or teaching work needs a solution, well, waiting room time is a good time to explore it.

8. Practice breathing. If I’m waiting to go in to something that scares me (MRIs shake me up for days ahead of time), inhaling deeply, feeling my breath circle around inside my body, and exhaling while I pretend I’m an ocean wave helps. Of course, this might freak out your fellows in the waiting room. But isn’t it better to be relaxed?

9. Edit pictures. I don’t have any fancy editing programs on my computer, so if I’m going to edit, a lot of times, I’ll use an app on my iPad or iPhone. This has double benefit–I’m using time productively, and I get to smile when I see the things I enjoy in pictures.

10. Day dream. Why not embrace the inability to be any where else and day dream? I like to imagine what ifs–what if I moved back to New Mexico? What if we sold our house and drove cross country in an RV? What if we move to Maine? What if I change careers? What if we build our addition? What if I rearrange my studio?

I’m heading to the doctor today to get checked out; I arrived from Paris with some kind of lingering ick. My plan is to bring crochet, a book, and my sketchbook, just in case I have a long wait.

What do you like to do to amuse yourself in a waiting room?

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Thursday Loves

Jun 05

porchSure, it’s officially still spring, but with grades submitted and my other end-of-semester duties pretty well dispatched (except cleaning my work office. It’s like a library threw up in there. I’ve never allowed a work space to get so sloppy!), it’s time to slow down and call out “Summer’s here!”

Want a peek at what I’ve been loving lately?

1. TTL Mystery Shawl. I’m using Swans Island Fingering (so is Sara…we chose it as a reminder of our time in Maine at Fiber College with lovely Kirsten). This yarn feels great both as I’m knitting and once it is fabric.

2. Crochet! I’ve taught a lot of private crochet lessons this year, and I’ve been working on my Dune shawl. I’ve spent more of my craft time crocheting than knitting. There. The secret is out.

3. Mary’s invitation to play Book Bingo. I’ve been doing so much academic reading lately, and I miss reading texts other than journal articles. I’m well on my way to calling out Bingo. Play along, but know that I’m probably going to win. (Probably. Maybe.)

4. Karina dresses. I’ve said it before, but with Megan and Ruby joining me for my upcoming trip to Scotland and France, I’ll say it again: these dresses make the best travel companions. They are easy to wear, easy to style, easy to care for.

5. Ash Beckham’s Ted Talk. I love her message. I’ve watched this over and over and over.

6. Smoky Sweet Potato Burgers. This recipe is so good. I abhor boxed veggie burgers. I try to avoid soy, and I’m no fan of meat replacements. I haven’t eaten meat in nearly 16 years, and I don’t miss it. I don’t want a fake version of it. If I’m going to have a patty of some sort, I want it to be toothy and flavorful and taste like something. This recipe tastes like something-something GOOD! I usually make the full recipe, cook it all, and freeze the patties I don’t eat. They warm up nicely. I only made the dressing the first time…it’s delicious, but I like the patties on their own.

7. Living Proof products. Sara got me hooked on Amp, and then I got samples of Perfect Hair Day Shampoo and Prime Style Extender, and I had a few really good hair days. I’ll be buying full-size products soon!

8. Everything about Carla Sonheim’s work, site, and classes. If you want to have a playful afternoon, take a look at some of her tutorials and mess around with art supplies!

9. Sandra Pawula’s e-course Living with Ease. Give yourself this gift if you’ve been feeling overwhelmed or anxious.

10. Life on the porch! Neal put up the ceiling fan this weekend, and declared the porch finished. I’ve been out there every day, rain or shine, hot or cold (hey, that’s what blankets are for)! It’s like having a vacation home right in my own back yard (well, right off my kitchen).

Spill: what have you been loving?

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Ten on Tuesday: Recently Read Edition

Mar 25

I can’t wait to see what every one else responding to Carole’s request for Last Ten Books Read lists. I’m building up my summer break reading list!

Here are my last ten books read (I’m not including work-related books):

1. Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell. This is sweet without being saccharine. As a graduate ca. 1987, the cultural references made the book nostalgic for me, too. I would have worn this out when I was in middle school.

2. Noah’s Compass by Anne Tyler. Well, I’m listening, and I’m not quite finished. It, not surprisingly, reminds me a LOT of her The Accidental Tourist, only with older characters. I’m not wowed by it, but the story telling is solid, and I’m interested in what happens to the characters.

3. Beautiful Wreck by the beautiful Larissa Brown. Read my review on Goodreads here. And read this book. I love it.

4. Song of the Lark by Willa Cather. I confess to being a HUGE fan of Cather’s. Shoot, I planned a trip around seeing her house (do you like going to writers’ homes? My number one favorite touristy thing to do!) This book made me weep. I mean, the last page had me sobbing. There were sentences that made my heart beat faster.

5. How Animals Grieve by Barbara King. I’m not usually a big non-fiction fan, but this was one of the best books I read in 2013. I gave it to several people after finishing it. Fascinating subject, and an excellent model of research engaging the reader. My Goodreads review.

6. Dog Shaming by Pascale Lemire. It’s cute if you like funny pictures of dogs.

7. The Silver Star by Jeannette Walls. I enjoyed this, but I found it predictable at times. Still, the writing is enjoyable, and the characters about which we care the most are portrayed effectively.

8. The War of Art by Steven Pressfield. It’s a good reminder to just get your damn work done.

9. Mrs. Lincoln’s Dressmaker by Jennifer Chiaverini. I listened to this while I commuted and hiked my dogs. The writing left me cold, and I’m no history buff (at least of this period), so my indifference may be that I’m not the audience for the book.

10. The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman. I’m cheating. I read this last summer. But I loved it so much, and I want you to read it, too!

What have you been reading?

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Silver Locks Project: 11 Month Update

Mar 13

photo 2Here I am, fresh from my stylist’s chair. You know what she did today?

She cut and carved out the last bits of yellow.

Eleven months in, another 1.75″ cut, and I’ve pretty much reached my natural color. There is a tiny bit left in my fringe because I wasn’t willing to cut them any more. Originally I estimated I’d get to this point October 2014, but my willingness to wear my hair a bit shorter in the interest of speeding things along cut (get it? cut?) seven months off the project.

Growing out the silver was far less painful than I imagined. In fact, it was only in the last two months or so that the yellow ends began to bother me. Most days, I rolled my hair into a twist so I wouldn’t have to look at them.

My hair is shorter than it has been since we bleached it last April, but I’m pleased to have my real color shining through. To keep my hair shiny, I follow Em’s basic guidelines: consume healthy foods, don’t over wash (I usually wash every third day), use sulfate-free shampoo. Today she recommended that I use a violet shampoo every now and again, to counteract any deposits from water/pollution that my turn my hair dull.

Here’s another view:

photo 3


You can read all about the Silver Locks Project. If you’re thinking of quitting the dye (and I am the last person to judge you if you are not interested in quitting the dye, trust me!), and you want more details about my journey, just leave a note in the comments. I’m glad to answer any questions!


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52/52 Project Update

Mar 08

Way back in September I embarked on my 52/52 (52 items for 52 weeks) project. Debbie asked how it was going recently, which motivated me to post about it.

Here’s the short truth: I am bored.

I examined this during a writing session last week, and I realized that I’ve been wearing pretty much the same wardrobe since October 2010. There have been some additions/replacements, but dressing minimally, starting with Project 333, has been a habit for well over three years now. Don’t worry. I’m not rushing out to fill my closet. Instead, I’ll review what I’ve been wearing and push through the boredom.

Of the items on my original 52/52 list, there are several I haven’t worn at all or only once (I won’t include the summer-only clothes since, well, it hasn’t been summer since I started):

  • Eileen Fisher dress (I never bought it!)
  • White blouse (it’s still packed away from summer’s P333)
  • Black tank (I had planned to buy a second, but I don’t need it yet)
  • Black turtleneck (couldn’t decide on one to buy)
  • Chinoa boots (still need repair)

I have added a few things, allowed in my monthly swap rule–two sweaters given to me as Christmas gifts, and a gray dress with elbow-length sleeves.

Over the next week, while I’m on Spring Break, I’ll clean my closet and bureau and decide if this is really project 47/52 or if I want to add items into the mix.

Despite my recent boredom, I continue to prefer dressing with less. Eventually, I’d like to figure out an even smaller year-round wardrobe.

What have you been wearing that you love lately?

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Ten on Tuesday: I Am Edition

Feb 04

This week, Carole invited us to write ten sentences that start with “I am…”

Frost lace

Frost lace

1. I am optimistic.

2. I am reading Nancy Drew The Secret of the Old Clock with a few knitting friends. Teenage girls had sophisticated vocabularies in 1930/59.

3. I am learning to knit Eastern Uncrossed, or as Donna told me it is called in Lithuanian books, Močiutės Mezgimas. I took a class at my LYS on Saturday, and it renewed my interest in knitting. I’d been in a knitting slump.

4. I am knitting Maren for my Olympics project.

5. I am on my third swatch for Maren. I know, stop the press. I knit the first my usual English style, and the next Eastern Uncrossed. Holy gauge difference! The swatch I’m knitting now is looking better since I switched from 7s to 5s.

6. I am excited to watch the Olympics. I prefer the winter games to the summer.

7. I am looking for new winter vegetarian recipes. Please share links!

8. I am eager to start Oskar’s next round of training. We couldn’t take the February intermediate because of scheduling conflicts; March can’t come fast enough!

9. I am ready for spring, although the winter wonderland created by a fresh 3″ of snow is pretty.

10. I am curious. Tell me what you are!

Yesterday Neal sent me a link to this video of Neil Gaiman reading Green Eggs and Ham. Perfect for today’s prompt!

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